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Joint letter to New York State Legislature in support of “Harper’s Law”

* Consumer Federation of America * Consumer Reports * Kids In Danger * NYS American Academy of Pediatrics, Chapters 1, 2 & 3 * Parents Against Tip-Overs *

As safety advocates and the parents of children killed by dressers that tipped over, we strongly urge you to vote in favor of “Harper’s Law” (A.4421B / S.1627B), a bill to help protect children from deadly furniture tip-over incidents. Every two weeks, a child in the United States tragically dies from a piece of furniture, a television, or an appliance tipping over onto them. Dressers and similar furniture are particularly deadly. Yet both the furniture industry and the federal government have been slow to act.

New York has the chance to stand up for children’s safety and pass a straightforward law to help prevent these deaths. “Harper’s Law,” named after 3-year-old Harper Fried of Monroe, N.Y., who died from a furniture tip-over incident, would require retailers of certain new dressers and other clothing storage units to sell only units that meet minimum stability standards and come with wall-anchoring kits, so that parents have equipment that can help keep their children safe.

Specifically, the bill would require all new clothing storage units sold by retailers to meet standards endorsed or established by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), or if no such standard exists, an ASTM International standard prescribing that furniture contain a tip restraint device (such as a wall anchoring kit or another kind of anti-tip kit) and carry a permanent warning label. Retailers could continue to sell units that are within the bill’s definition of “furniture” but are outside the scope of these standards, but only if the retailers make sure that tip restraint devices are readily available to consumers and they post a conspicuous safety notice about the tip-over hazard and the utility of tip restraint devices. A retailer who violates these requirements would be liable for a civil penalty of up to $500 for each violation.

Our organizations recommend that consumers anchor dressers and similar furniture to the wall. The provisions of Harper’s Law would help advance that goal by improving access to tip restraint devices, which can also be made more directly available if manufacturers bundle them with products and include them as part of the purchase, as prescribed by the voluntary industry safety standard ASTM F2057-17.

At the same time, our groups have been vocal that ASTM F2057-17 does not adequately protect children from the risk of death or injury. We have said — on the basis of our testing — that it would be feasible for furniture manufacturers to meet a substantially stronger standard that protects more children and covers more dressers, and also have called on the CPSC to supplant this voluntary industry standard with a strong, mandatory safety standard. In recent months, CPSC officials have begun to agree with our recommendations, calling on industry to strengthen the voluntary standard; taking steps toward a mandatory standard; and issuing a notice to manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers informing them that the CPSC will now consider dressers defective if they are within the scope of the current voluntary standard but fail to meet its provisions.

However, it is likely to take considerable time for the federal government and the furniture industry to strengthen stability requirements for dressers and other clothing storage units. In the meantime, more consumers — and especially young children — are at risk from furniture tip-over incidents. In the absence of strong action, to date, by the CPSC and manufacturers to establish robust stability standards, state bills such as Harper’s Law can play a significant and vital role in reducing deaths and injuries related to clothing storage unit tip-overs.

We strongly urge you to vote in favor of Harper’s Law (A.4421B / S.1627B). If you have any questions about the bills or would like more information, please contact any of the organizations below.

For the full letter, click here.